You might want to be on your guard if you’re managing or dealing with professionals in the banking industry.
If this research from Zurich University is anything to go by, bankers are more likely than any other professionals to be dishonest.
But before you start suspecting the ethical and moral principles of bankers, researchers warn that it is the industry – rather than these professionals themselves – that fosters such dishonest behaviour in them.
Working with approximately 200 bank employees, 128 from a large international bank and 80 from other banks, Alain Cohn, Ernst Fehr, and Michel Maréchal from the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich attempted to find out whether banking employees by nature were less honest than others.
“Their results show that bank employees are in principle not more dishonest than their colleagues in other industries,” a press release from the university stated.
“The findings indicate, however, that the business culture in the banking sector implicitly favors dishonest behavior. The results suggest that the implementation of a healthy business culture is of great importance in order to restore trust in the banking industry.”
Each person in the experiment was randomly assigned to one of two conditions. In the experimental group, the bankers were reminded of their occupational role and the associated behavioral norms with appropriate questions. In contrast, participants in the control group were reminded of their non-occupational roles in their leisure time and the associated norms.
They were then told a task that would allow them to increase their income by up to USD200 if they behaved dishonestly.
The result was that bank employees in the experimental group, where their occupational role in the banking sector was made salient, behaved significantly more dishonestly.
A very similar study was then conducted with employees from various other industries. Unlike the bankers, however, the employees in these other industries were not more dishonest when reminded of their occupational role.
“Our results suggest that the social norms in the banking sector tend to be more lenient towards dishonest behavior and thus contribute to the reputational loss in the industry,” Michel Maréchal, professor for experimental economic research at the University of Zurich, said.